Vibrant Exploration: Works in Representational Abstraction Opening at The Barn Gallery

A new exhibition opening at YoloArts’ Barn Gallery in Woodland brings together a diverse group of artists and a collection of artwork intertwining the recognizable with the abstract, creating an exciting and unexpected visual experience. The exhibition, Vibrant Exploration: Works in Representational Abstraction opens with a meet the artists reception Thursday, June 23.

This exciting exhibition has been curated by Omar Thor Arason, Adjunct Professor of Art at CSU Sacramento and Sierra College, and Manuel Fernando Rios, Associate Professor of Art, Woodland Community College. The two art educators are artists and longtime friends, and have collaborated on two-person exhibitions, sharing ideas and inspiration throughout the years. Both artists are highly involved in art communities that range from Sacramento to the Bay Area, and were inspired to ask the highly talented artists in those communities to participate in this exhibition. The curators admire the work of all the artists, and note that they share a common aesthetic in these visual expressions.

In their joint artist statement, Arason (a native of Iceland) and Rios (a California native) said, “Over the 17 years of our friendship, we’ve noticed that not only did we have similar approaches to our compositions, but despite our remarkably different backgrounds, we share a very similar taste for, and admiration of contemporary visual art that combines abstracted, non-objective, gestural brushwork with more recognizable figurative elements grounded in a surreal space.”

“Omar and Manuel, have brought together such an accomplished group of local artists whose artwork truly reflects the show’s title,” said Janice Purnell, YoloArts creative director. “Not only is the work vibrant, it explores an array of fascinating and multi-layered themes.”

Artists in the show: Rachelle Agundes, Bret Amory, Omar Thor Arason, Tavarus Blackmon, Serena Cole, John Yoyogi Fortes, Ramona Garcia, and Manuel Fernando Rios.

Artist statements prepared for the exhibition include:

Rachelle Agundes

“Agundes’ creative practice has manifested from an exploration of the process of memory and how it becomes distorted through the steady passage of time. The paintings depict collaged and compiled imagery from her environment, memories, family history, photographs and dreams —which are filtered through studio processes. She uses materials and process-driven motifs to manipulate imagery into further realizations. This results in a juxtaposing, overlapping, or stacking of space and time. The collaging of space and ideas allows time to fluctuate from past, present and future— much like one’s relationship to time in dreams.”

Brett Amory

“My interdisciplinary practice explores mundane and quotidian themes that structure daily life. I’m interested in everyday experiences that construct our habitual engagement with the world and how such habits often prevent us from paying attention to our surroundings. My work draws attention to the economic, social conditions in the documentation/representation of the changing urban landscape, and touches upon issues of gentrification, class, ethnicity and community.”

Omar Thor Arason

“In his paintings, Arason explores the imaginary nexus of physics, history, psychology, myth and personal narrative. Working within a northern European vernacular of figurative painting, Omar explores a variety of hypothetical situations that aim to stretch and explore the ways in which archetypes can emerge and highlight both contemporary and historical issues.”

Tavarus Blackmon

Blackmon, also known by the Anglo-Saxon, Blackmonster, is a devoted, Black, Father and Partner with three children in the City of Trees, Sacramento, California.

His work addresses the brutality of our history, the mystery of our origin and the hope for the future. The artist makes his own colors with powdered pigment and polymer. The process of making color, making paintings, and making connections with family, create a path for the artist to heal.

Manuel Fernando Rios

“The work of Manuel Fernando Rios explores the complexities of understanding identity. Primarily a painter, Rios also incorporates collage, image transfer and screen-printing into his work. The imagery often includes figurative subjects juxtaposed next to colorful geometric shapes which careen in and out throughout the picture plane creating a sense of discombobulation and confusion. The interaction between the figures is the result of Manuel’s exploration of ethnicity and self-identifying subcultures.”

Ramona Garcia

“Sometimes the shocks of transitions lure us into states of muteness from which we must find creative ways to recover. Having migrated to Sacramento from Guanajuato, Mexico at the age of thirteen, art became an important language and an outlet of expression. The works in this exhibit explore the nuances of memory and finding and the ways in which home is re-membered, re-imagined and re-created through storytelling, rituals and dreams.”

Serena Cole

“I am interested in exploring the narrative of what it feels like to be a (cis-gendered) American woman today. By combining imagery from art history with photos appropriated from advertising culture, I play with relationships between gender, power, and the viewer. By re-contexulaizing imagery through the lens of the female gaze, I investigate the relationships of desiring and being desired.”

John Yoyogi Fortes

“When I was thinking about what I’d put in this exhibition I thought about the larger works in my studio that I’m currently working on, but then decided to create a one off wall installation from a variety of works from past to present, temporarily giving them new life. To me, the act of assembling of the works is very much like painting, laying down images, considering relationships, layering meaning and opening the door to the unknown.”

Vibrant Exploration continues at the Barn Gallery through August 20.

The artist reception will be hosted 5:30-8 p.m. Thursday, June 23. Music, light refreshments and wine will be available.

Arason and Rios will be the featured speakers Thursday, July 21 at the YoloArts Salon Series. The talk will be held at The Barn Gallery 5:30-7:30 pm.

Regular open hours of The Barn Gallery are Wednesdays and Thursdays 2:30-5 p.m. Also open select Saturdays 12:30-3 p.m. (6/25, 7/9, 7/23, 8/6, 8/20)

The Barn Gallery is located at 512 Gibson Road in Woodland. For more information contact YoloArts at

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